Check Yourself at the Door
Rumors abounded about a de facto ban on live hip hop; San Francisco hadn't had a big rap show in months. In comes Ice Cube. As the Weekly reported April 5 ("What's Killing Hip Hop?"), anticipation was high for the L.A. rapper's two scheduled shows last weekend, as though they might decide once and for all whether live rap is still viable in the Bay Area. A big, multiact concert Friday, April 7, in Sacramento's Arco Arena went down with only a minor incident -- a brief scuffle following Dru Down's set. With the commotion quickly contained, E-40 and Ice Cube were able to do their thing, and Cube kept the party going for nearly two hours. Attendees remarked on the tight security: metal detectors, bag searches and Sacramento police in full force.
Ice Cube's Saturday-night gig at the Warfield was a slightly different story. Once again, ticket holders faced metal detectors and searches, and a row of SFPD lined the area in front of the venue throughout the evening. As one doorman remarked, "I've never seen so many cops at a show before."
Ice Cube's set opened to a promising start with "Natural Born Killaz," but a fight broke out about 15 minutes later during the rush up front for "You Know How We Do It." A small posse repeatedly pummeled a guy until he fell to the ground, covering his face from the blows. When the house lights went up, you could feel the disappointment in the air. The audience started cat-calling -- not security, but the perpetrators.
Ice Cube, his crew and the onstage Nation of Islam members watched as house security dragged the offenders off the floor. "Respect the shit on the stage," Ice Cube admonished the crowd. "You know what happens when ya start up this shit -- they're gonna blame Ice Cube," he said, advising future troublemakers, "Keep your punk-ass home."
To the surprise of the fans, some of whom started heading out, the concert continued once things chilled. Cube resurrected the vibe with a searing rendition of "Gangsta, Gangsta" and by the end of the show, the crowd was chanting, "Ain't no party like an Ice Cube party."
But what does the altercation mean in a climate where any violent incident is grist for the crackdown mill? Nothing, according to Michael Bailey of Bill Graham Productions, which presented the concert. "The scuffle was a minor, isolated incident that has no bearing on the future," Bailey says. "The show went off very well. The amazing thing to me was the well-behaved crowd -- it was totally down on the people fighting and very supportive of security. We'd do Ice Cube again next week if he wanted to come back." How this bodes for other S.F. venues remains to be seen.